What If Someone Dies Without A Will?

When someone dies without leaving a will, their money and property are distributed according to a set of legal rules called the intestacy rules. The same is true if there is a will but it is not legally valid, or parts of it are not effective. The person who died is said to be ‘intestate’.

The rules state that the money and property (known as the estate) are distributed to the deceased’s husband or wife, their civil partner and other close relatives. So an ex-spouse is not entitled to inherit anything, and nor is an unmarried partner, even if they cohabited with the deceased for many years.

What Are The Intestacy Rules?

The spouse or civil partner of the deceased will receive all their personal property and belongings plus the first £250,000 of the estate. What happens to the remainder of the estate depends if there are surviving children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. If so, then the remainder is given 50% to them and 50% to the spouse/civil partner. If not, then the spouse/civil partner receives everything.

For example, a husband dies leaving a wife and child, and an estate worth £450,000. There is no will, so under the intestacy rules his wife receives £250,000 plus 50% of the balance of £200,000, a total of £350,000. The child receives the remaining 50%, or £100,000.

No Spouse/Civil Partner

If the deceased was not married or in a civil partnership, then their estate is inherited by their relatives. If there are children, it goes to them. If not, then to the deceased’s parents. If the parents are not alive, then to siblings, nephews, nieces, and so on.

If the deceased has no blood relatives at all, then their estate is inherited by the Crown, i.e. the State.

What About Jointly-Owned Property?

It is common for someone who dies to own property jointly with someone else, e.g. where a couple jointly own their home. If the deceased was intestate, then how their share of the property is inherited depends on whether they owned the property with the co-owner as joint tenants or tenants in common.

If the co-owners were joint tenants at the time of the death, then the surviving partner will automatically inherit the other partner’s share of the property. So if a husband and wife are joint tenants of their home, then the wife will automatically inherit her husband’s share if he dies. That share will not form part of the estate, or count towards the £250,000 inherited by the wife under the intestacy rules referred to above.

However, if the co-owners were tenants in common, then the deceased’s share of the property does form part of their estate.

The same rules apply to joint bank accounts. If one partner dies, the other partner will automatically inherit all of the money.

At What Age Do Children Inherit?

If a child inherits under the intestacy rules, they only receive the inheritance when they reach 18 years of age (or marry or form a civil partnership under 18). Until then, trustees manage the inheritance on their behalf.

​It is important to take advice about a particular set of circumstances. Call us today to discuss your situation and how we can help.

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